- Book: Celestial Bodies
- Location: Oman
- Author: Jokha Alharthi
On TripFiction we haven’t to date on our blog featured a novel that is set in Oman, and so I was keen to read Celestial Bodies and delve a little into an unknown world and culture. It is set in the village of al-Awafi which is fictional but must be an accurate reflection of family life in a tight-knit community and closed environment. In the background there is always the lure of Muscat…
This is the story of three generations, focussing on threes sisters; Mayya, who marries Abdullah, Asma who marries out of a sense of duty and Khawla, who is waiting for her beloved who has emigrated to Canada. Abdullah gets a significant voice, mourning the death of his own father, and the printed text distinguishes the chapters devoted to him. Is that because he is a significant male character, I wondered?
Mayya, early in the book gives birth to the next generation – a little girl whom they name London arrives into their lives. It is the story and evolution of family members, their lives, loves and losses that are at the heart of the novel. There is much to learn about Omani culture, the history, the slave culture in their history and what the future might look like.
I didn’t find it quite as enthralling as I had hoped, this is probably due to my lack of knowledge of Omani culture – there are many obscure references that can be a little bewildering to a reader from outside the culture, yet it proved to be an interesting and informative challenge. The translation by Marylin Booth reads well and the writing is quite lyrical. I do think it would be a great novel to take on any trip to the country as it would be such an immersive read.